Swamp Citizens – Drought Relief

As large, voracious predators at the top of the food chain, we might think that alligators do nothing but devour their fellow creatures that inhabit the swamp. And it is only the sense, swiftness or camouflage that keeps the alligator from causing the extinction of all in its path. But this stereotype is not necessarily the case. Alligators actually do quite a bit to help the other swamp creatures survive.

American Alligator in a “gator hole” in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 11, 2015. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

Many swamps are subject to the frequent ebbs and flows of drought and flood. It is during the periods of low water that alligators are most helpful. As part of their life history, gators move a good bit of earth. They tear up aquatic vegetation and construct “runs” and trails, and also dig out ponds. As water levels decrease and the swamp dries up, often the only water remaining is within these “gator holes.”

According to Kelby Ouchley in his book American Alligator – Ancient Predator in the Modern World, “alligators use their snout, front legs, and tail to excavate ponds called alligator holes. Ranging in size from 8 to 50 feet in diameter, they are often dug down to the shallow limestone bedrock.”

Some populations of fish might disappear if it weren’t for the water-retaining constructions of the alligator. Hydrophilic plant species requiring wet soil can still thrive near gator trails as the rest of the habitat desiccates.  Even the larger mammals and birds gather around the gator holes for refreshment during prolonged dry spells.

Their drought relief engineering shows that the American Alligator is a good Swamp Citizen!

iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58165525

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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